December 13, 1998-March 7, 1999
LOVE FOREVER: YAYOI KUSAMA, 1958-1968
Postwar Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama's daring work--at times Minimalist and ephemeral, always performative and radical--anticipated questions about materiality and the separation between art and life still
asked today. Born in Matsumoto City, Japan, in 1929, she arrived
in New York in 1958. In the next few years she created a varied
body of work that made a widely known and significant contribution
to the contemporary New York scene. After her return to Japan
in 1972, much of her work was overlooked in the West. Love Forever: Yayoi Kusama, 19581968,co-curated by Lynn Zelevansky, Los Angeles County Museum of
Art, and Laura Hoptman, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, focuses
on Kusama's time in New York in order to help retrieve a chapter
of art history that was all but forgotten.
Kusama's paintings, collages, sculptures, and environmental works all share an obsession with repetition, pattern, and accumulation. Hoptman writes that "Kusama's interest in pattern began with hallucinations she experienced as a young girl--visions of nets, dots, and flowers that covered everything she saw. Gripped by the idea of 'obliterating the world,' she began covering larger and larger areas of canvas with patterns." Her organically abstract paintings of one or two colors (the Infinity Netsseries), which she began upon arriving in New York, garnered comparisons to the work of Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Barnett Newman.
In Kusama's sculptures, the obsessive quality of the webs in her paintings is expressed in three dimensions. Household furniture, women's clothes, and high-heeled shoes are covered in bristling fields of fiber-stuffed phallic forms painted monochrome white, silver, or bronze. Other objects are covered in macaroni pasta and painted gold; mannequins are painted with colorful nets and polka-dots. Zevelansky writes, "Since Kusama's inclination was always to adapt to what life offered, it is not surprising that her work of the sixties reflected the conditions under which it was made without intellectualizing her plight as a woman." The domestic sculptures are evidence of Kusama's reaction to the male-dominated New York art world, and became, in Hoptman's words, "hilarious and aggressive send-ups, not so much of sex itself, but of power and those who hold it."
In addition to the paintings and sculptures, the exhibition also features little-known but significant photocollages and gouaches as well as reconstructions of some of Kusama's precedent-setting environmental works from the mid-1960s. Aggregation: One Thousand Boats Show(1964) bridges the gap between object and installation by placing one of Kusama's sculptures (of a rowboat) in a room papered with a repeated image of the boat itself. Both the mirrored chamber entitled Infinity Mirror Room(1965) and Narcissus Garden (1966), an installation consisting of 1,500 mirrored plastic balls, further express Kusama's abiding concern with the notion of infinite repetition.
From the late 1960s until she returned to Japan in 1972, Kusama worked predominantly as a performance artist, staging "naked happenings," "anatomic explosions," and "body festivals" in public places in New York City (often painting people rather than mannequins with polka-dots). This largely ephemeral form of art-making, which at the time drew more attention from the public at large than from the art world, is documented in the exhibition through photographs and videos.
The obsessive character of Kusama's art and her manner of connecting the personal and formal, the organic and constructed, the ephemeral and the material, speaks directly to concerns that are central to today's art world. Hoptman writes that "Kusama's equation of herself with her work, and her relentless exhibition of the result, can be seen as a rare and militant claim of self-authorship. Later her example helped to inspire a whole new genre of art, from the role-playing self-portrait photos of Cindy Sherman, Yasumasa Morimura, and Mariko Mori to the performances of Matthew Barney."The exhibition Love Forever: Yayoi Kusama, 19581968elucidates the precedents set by Kusama's work for some of today's most influential young artists.
LOVE FOREVER: YAYOI KUSAMA, 19581968WAS CO-ORGANIZED BY THE
LOS ANGELES COUNTY MUSEUM OF ART AND THE JAPAN FOUNDATION, IN
COLLABORATION WITH THE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART, NEW YORK. THE EXHIBITION
WAS SUPPORTED BY A GENEROUS GRANT FROM THE NIPPON FOUNDATION.
TRANSPORTATION ASSISTANCE WAS PROVIDED BY JAPAN AIRLINES. THE
EXHIBITION CATALOGUE WAS SUPPORTED IN PART BY A GRANT FROM THE
ANDY WARHOL FOUNDATION FOR THE VISUAL ARTS.
THE MINNEAPOLIS PRESENTATION IS MADE POSSIBLE BY GENEROUS SUPPORT FROM YOKO ONO LENNON, THE E. RHODES & LEONA B. CARPENTER FOUNDATION, AND AARON AND CAROL MACK.
YAYOI KUSAMA WITH ROBERT MURDOCK: INTERVIEW, 12/22/66
MACK LECTURE SERIES
LIVING ART: ASSAULTING THE MYTHS OF ART AND ILLNESS
ADULT ART LAB
JAPANESE NEW WAVE CINEMA
SECOND SUNDAY TOUR